Apple TV: Apple’s Highlander Move

| Analysis

Just because Apple still calls Apple TV a hobby doesn't mean that's what the set top home entertainment box really is, and with purchase of Matcha.tv, the iPhone and iPad maker may be gunning to be the Highlander of streaming content devices. Matcha, before it disappeared in May, told users which services offered the shows they want to watch, and that's something Apple could use to make the channels, networks, and online services irrelevant: Just ask Apple TV to find you a show and it does, no matter where it may live online.

Apple is moving to make Apple TV the one choice for streaming mediaApple is moving to make Apple TV the one choice for streaming media

What Matcha offered its users was an easy way to use their iPhone or iPad to see a list of all of the places a show is available on line. For example, Archer fans could find out that their favorite show is available through the iTunes Store, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and on FX. Add that to Apple TV, and your searches for shows becomes all about what you can watch right now, and not where it's available.

The Matcha concept isn't new, and certainly isn't limited to Apple. Microsoft's Xbox already offers a very similar feature and it's something that would be welcome on Apple TV. Apple won't unseat gaming consoles like Xbox with Apple TV, but it can give other streaming content devices such as Roku and TiVo a run for their money.

Picture this: You ask Siri on your iPhone or iPad to find the latest episode of Archer. She asks if you want to buy and watch the show, or stream it. Based on your choice, Siri decides where to get the show from and it simply appears on your television for you to watch.

As Apple strikes more content deals, the number of places it can search for shows grows, and that makes Apple TV even more compelling for users because they stop thinking of content in terms of which network it airs on, or which services offer back episodes. Instead, it's all about the shows are on your Apple TV.

That's a great deal for Apple because it can sell even more of its Apple TV devices, and for content creators as well because it gives them a drop dead simple way to keep their content in front of viewer's eyes.

Since Apple won't be the first company with a product on the market that offers these types of features there has to be something that sets Apple TV apart, and that's where it has the advantage. Apple gets that simple sells, and even though there's room for improvement in Apple TV's interface, it's simple. Add in Siri voice control and watching shows takes little more effort than saying what you want to see.

Adding Matcha's features to Apple TV could help turn our iPads and iPhones into extensions of our televisions, too. The second screen idea lets TV fans watch shows on their big screen while finding more information about what they're seeing through their mobile device screen in real time. That can be used to show behind the scenes information along with other shows viewers may like, and can be a gateway to online social interaction with friends and show fans.

If Apple can make Apple TV compelling enough, it can start pushing harder to make its little set top box our go-to choice for home entertainment over options like TiVo and Roku. Apple TV is already outselling the competition, and it isn't any secret that Apple has a strong interest in the television space.

Apple may act casual about Apple TV, but that's just a diversion. The company wants our living rooms and our eyes, and it doesn't want to share. Apple will continue to methodically add features to Apple TV making it even more enticing, potentially drawing consumers away from the competition -- and that's exactly what you want when you're gunning to be the Highlander of the streaming set top box market.

[Some image elements courtesty Shutterstock]

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Comments

skipaq

Good article Jeff. Here is my short wish list for AppleTV in the near future. Beefed up processor and especially the GPU. Newer WiFi hardware. FireWire or Lightning connectivity. Some really big things in iOS 7 for Apple TV. I can think of some really cool things that could be done using the various sensors in handheld iOS devices as a controller for Apple TV.

Lee Dronick

With Samsung as the Kurgan. smile

I do not yet have an Apple TV. It was only a few months ago that I bought my first digital TV, when I got Uverse service. Anyway, when the next big change happens to Apple TV then I will probably get one.

Jamie

I didn’t get one until it’s current iteration, but I love it too. They’ve definitely got some killer potential even with just Airplay. It hasn’t been fully exploited yet due to the spec constraints, but paired with all of Apple’s other devices, it could be huge for things like games etc. Even I, the eternally patient Apple enthusiast am starting to wonder why they are just sitting on so much potential.

Regardless, I find even in its current state, Apple TV, Airplay, and a few choice apps are a sufficient replacement for cable and DVD viewing (though I do also pay for Netflix and Hulu Plus, less than $20/month, and they work across all of my other stuff).

Jeff Gamet

It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple gives us some kind of hardware update so the Apple TV can do more than it’s currently capable of, and that would be a slick move to make it more enticing as the be-all-end-all home entertainment center device.

anovelli

I think it’s logical to imagine the AppleTV moving to 4K support, which would likely impact form factor. Tied with an overdue processor update and a hopeful return to FW/thunderbolt, it would offer one huge jump, even without the advent of apps, which are going to happen one way or the other. Running iOS apps natively will BURY the competition. Use your iOS devise as interface and games become a driver that will shake Xbox to the core.

Jamie

It would totally bury them. smile

iJack

Google’s new $35 Chromecast has got to come into the discussion here somewhere. It’s small and completely unobtrusive, since it’s about the size of a USB stick.  No wires, since it streams directly from your Mac or PC.  I remember that they are working with Netflix, Hulu, and maybe a couple of others to start.

If Apple is going to make some AppleTV moves, they are going to have to take account of the price and size of Chromecast.  I’m actually kind of surprised Chromecast hasn’t been reviewed here yet. Are the TMO offices too far away from Best Buy?

adamC

@iJack

No wires?

Where did you get that from.

iJack

@AdamC ~ Chromecast plugs directly into the TV’s HDMI port.
Everything after that is WiFi.
http://www.google.com/intl/en/chrome/devices/chromecast/#netflix

skipaq

@iJack chromecast is limited in the dongle form factor. It maybe what many want for what it offers. The other issue has to do with a personal preference not to use Google services.

Gary Dauphin

@iJack No Wires?  ChromeCast requires USB for power. USB is a cable.  If your TV has no powered USB ports available, they give you power brick to run your USB cable to.

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